Sunday, 14 December 2008

A First Year Celebration of Chateau Northwood

As we ready ourselves for the seasonal celebrations, we are also rejoicing in our first year of full production in our mini vineyards. Two years ago, while touring in Loire, we saw an advertisement in a French wine magazine for Michel et Pascal Anneau, who grow and export vine plants of every variety. We got a tad carried away, a little too much dégustation, while visiting their viticulture in La Chapelle-Basse-Mer on the banks of the Loire estuary and left with 32 baby grafts in four varieties (oh, and lots of their own wines). The vines cost 60 pence each and the bottles of wine only a little more. It wasn’t until we arrived home, with our ministere de l’ agriculture export licence, I hasten to add, that we started pacing our available garden space and realised we’d over bought. We had two mini vineyards worth, so the race was on to find a small parcel of land with the right aspect and soil type to plant a second plot. We were very lucky to find such a spot within a mile from the house at an allotment, and although they had a long waiting list for plots it happened that the week one became available no one was answering their telephones, we were in!
We divided the spoils 8 Merlot and 8 Cabernet Franc at home, 8 Melon de Bourgogne and 8 Pinot Noir at the allotment and Nick started digging and digging, that was when he wasn’t gigging. The problem was that he was trying to reproduce the soil medium these guys like. Sharp grit and sand was added, manure of course and our own compost too, to a depth of three foot. Black landscaping cloth was laid, to retain moisture and keep down weeds, on top of that gravel and stones to retain the heat of the day and act as a storage heater during cooler evenings. Galvanised steel support wires were hung from beefy wooden steaks. It was a labour of love with no guaranteed return. So 2009 will tell if all the work has been worthwhile, but it is a long term project and it could be as long as 2012 until the vines really mature enough giving us good indication of quality in this northern latitude as long as we have good weather and we live that long! But on the evidence of two Merlot we planted six years ago against the conservatory, the forecast is rosy indeed, as we will soon be bottling our third year vintage.


joey said...

How delightful! My husband's dream is to own a mini vineyard. Good luck!

Thanks For 2 Day said...

I hope your newest plantings yield as much pleasure as your older ones. The grapes look plentiful! Jan

joco said...

One thing I do not understand: Are you in a pigeon-free zone?

How come you don't have to net the vines?

They even get into our vine house if somebody leaves the door open.

Woodland Fay said...

Joco, Is there such a place as pigeon free? No we don't net yet, but have designed the end posts to be strong enough to handle netting if need be. Our pigeons are too well feed and fat from eating my beautiful plum buds and other fruit in this garden to balance on the support wires for the vines, but blackbirds could be a problem. Plus growing a double gigot method helps keep the goodies out of reach!